The CPD Roller Coaster

While the negotiations of the Conference on Population and
Development (CPD) at the United Nations (UN) go on behind closed doors,
advocates of every stripe gather outside to stand watch, provide any assistance
delegates may need on possible language and strategy, and try to get their
issues on the table up until the very last second.

It is no surprise then that on the second morning of
negotiations during the 42nd session of the CPD, which took place
March 30-April 3, sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates were on
our way to the hall outside of the negotiation room.  However, when we
arrived every bench immediately in front on the negotiation room was
commandeered by none other than the representatives from conservative Family
Watch International (FWI) and Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute
(C-FAM).  There weren’t many of them, but they had spread themselves
out as to not leave one seat available.  And, while this may seem like a
minute and trivial detail, as we all know from West Side Story, turf is

Little did the FWI and C-FAM folks know, the tide was
about to change.  Not long after we arrived, delegates began to stream out
of the negotiation room.  While the representatives from FWI and C-FAM
stuck to their positions, the rest of us followed the herd.  When we
arrived at what was to be the new negotiation room, there were benches aplenty,
and we promptly arranged seating and set up shop. While the issues we were
there to advocate on behalf of were certainly serious, this humorous scene
mirrored the proceeding inside: you never know where you will end up in the

This story is a children’s ride compared to the
rollercoaster that was going on inside the negotiation room.  Luckily, the
delegates were able to come to a resolution, but only after plenty of ups and
downs. Per the direction of this year’s theme for the CPD, delegates were
tasked with assessing "The contribution of the Programme of Action of the
International Conference on Population and Development to the internationally
agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals." The
CPD serves to inform and advise the UN’s Economic and Social Council,
offering its recommendations in the final Resolution of the meeting. 

While the Conference debated issues such as the status of
civil society organizations in relationship to governments and perceptions of
international migration’s impact generated some controversy, the most
contentious issues by far related to sexual and reproductive health and rights
(SRHR).  Unequivocal in their position on SRHR, the Holy See, as
represented by Permanent Observer of the Holy See, Archbishop Celestino
Migliore, accused "the very institution which launched the
MDGs…[of] giving priority to population control and getting the poor to
accept these arrangements rather than primarily focusing on [the MDGs]
commitments to addressing education, health care, access to water, sanitation
and employment."  Such claims of championing the rights of others,
while dismissing attention to their sexual and reproductive health needs as
merely "population control," represent a dogmatic adherence to
ideology rather than a call to fulfill their human rights.

Even the phrase "sexual and reproductive health and
rights" aroused passionate debate.  Family Watch International,
whose mission is to "preserve and promote the family, based on marriage
between a man and a woman as the societal unit that provides the best outcome
for men, women and children" has attempted to confuse the issue by
claiming that "sexual rights," could be used to "promote
abortion, homosexuality, transsexuality, prostitution, pedophilia, pornography
etc."   This "slippery slope" fallacy is
meaningless and offensive, and, while such fearmongering might generate a few
additional donations among their followers, it clearly would not stand up in
legitimate negotiations.  While the draft Resolution during the final
plenary include the phrase "sexual and reproductive health and
rights" and appeared to have consensus, in the final hour the delegation
from Iran
refuted the inclusion of "sexual and reproductive health and
rights" stating that there is not agreed upon language on the definition
of "sexual rights."  In the end it was replaced with the
language, "sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights."

While the final Resolution presented some problematic
language regarding adolescents, there were clearly some breakthroughs. 
The Resolution incorporated key language from the Platform for Action from the
Fourth World Conference on Women, stating that women have the right "to
have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their
sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion,
discrimination and violence."  It is simply amazing how such few
words embrace such an expansive notion as free will, responsibility and
self-determination.  Regardless of how divisive right-wing factions can be
in such matters, whether as part of country delegations or NGOs jockeying on
the sidelines, their arguments that SRHR are outside of the human rights
framework, at the most extreme, or that they are somehow subjugated in a false
hierarchy of rights, ultimately find a dead end.  Picking and choosing
parts of the wide range of human needs, and placing them in competition with
one another, directly violates the foundation of human rights, which recognizes
the "equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family."  

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  • invalid-0

    Great blog Ariana

  • paul-bradford

    Population pressures vary greatly from country to country. In Latin America, Africa and much of Asia, populations are increasing at an alarming rate. In Japan, Russia and much of Western Europe, populations are in decline. In Israel, the Arab population is increasing while the Jewish population is decreasing. The situation is far too complex to be properly addressed by ideological purists of either side.


    For a population to remain stable, the birth rate (births per 1000 women of childbearing age) has to hold steady between 65 and 70. People in this country began to become concerned about overpopulation in the ‘sixties. From 1946 until 1964 the birth rate in the USA ran between 100 and 120. These were the days of the baby boom and intellectuals were becoming increasingly alarmed at the possibility we would overpopulate ourselves into exceedingly dire straits.


    No one then could have predicted that the birth rate would drop below 70 and remain between 65 and 70 for thirty-five years; but that’s exactly what has happened. Our birth rate hit the ‘stability target’ the same year Roe was decided and it hasn’t once risen to a rate that would cause overpopulation nor has it declined to a rate that would trigger depopulation. We’re in an ideal situation, population-wise. (The total population has risen since 1973 and will continue to rise as long as the baby boom generation is still with us. It will also rise if we have a high positive net migration. But the underlying factors for population stability have been excellent.)


    We’ve got an excellent birth rate, but we’re relying on a fairly high abortion rate to keep it where it needs to be. If every child who was aborted after 1973 had been born, our birth rate would have consistently run between 85 and 95 and we’d be (to use George H.W. Bush’s phrase) in ‘deep doo-doo’.


    What many Pro-Life advocates aren’t willing to admit (although I’m doing my best to get the word out) is that lowering the abortion rate could actually cause big problems if we don’t simultaneously lower the pregnancy rate.


    Guess what? The news is good! The pregnancy rate, among unmarried women, has been going down since 1991 — from 92 to 78 This is good news for people who are concerned about overpopulation. The percentage of pregnancies ending in abortion has been going down for an even longer time — from 1977 when 66% of pregnancies ended in abortion until the current rate which is 41%. This is good news for people who care about the unborn.


    There is bad news because if we managed to lower the pregnancy rate of unmarried women sufficiently (which sounds like good news for a lot of reasons) there wouldn’t be enough children born to married women to keep the country from depopulating. The rate of married births per 1000 total women of childbearing age is only 42.


    Just some things to think about.

    Paul Bradford Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • invalid-0

    The only problem now is that modern medical science is keeping everyone alive. We don’t die from infections or accidents or bad organs etc. There obviously is no turning back,but I wonder what God thinks about all this? The new ones are not being born for many reasons and the old weak and sick are not dying. We have messed up the natural way severely. Now we are all suffering and especially the earth,animals and plants. Many are now gone forever. It is a sad race the human one.